Boss Lady

Power Pack | California Music Studios founder Jennifer Paterson


Jennifer PatersonJennifer Paterson is the owner and founder of California Music Studios, a network of over 300 music teachers across five counties that offers private music lessons to both children and adults.

In this interview, Paterson outlines how her artistic passion and skill guide her career; how she rapidly grew her business and what her plans are moving forward; and most importantly, how she keeps it together and finds that perfect work/life balance. As you dive into her answers, you’ll find it’s difficult not to feel inspired by this woman’s incredible humility – which she maintains while successfully running a business that keeps the arts alive for thousands of students, teachers, and parents alike!

TheBusinessWomanMedia: What made you decide that you wanted to run a business? Did it simply come to you as your next big goal, or was it a goal that formed over time?

Jennifer Paterson: It was not planned. I was singing opera in Boston for many years, and then I moved to California and needed money. I started teaching music, because that’s what I knew, and quickly found that my roster of students was becoming more than I could handle. So, in that first year I hired one other teacher to take on some of those students; the next year I had a total of three teachers that worked for me; the third year that number grew to five or six, and so on. It wasn’t my intention to build a huge business, but then it took off and I kept going with it.

TBWM: What was the transition like going from student to performer to teacher to business owner?

JP: Well, I had to learn a lot of things about how to run a business. I did a lot of reading, took some business courses, and ultimately, learned from people. I had been a music student myself for many years, so I felt I had a good understanding of what the students wanted. For the business portion, my husband was a huge help in guiding my principles, so the transition went pretty smoothly.

TBWM: Your business went from just several teachers to hundreds of teachers in a matter of years. Over what period of time did that growth take place and what inspired you to take your business to the next level?

JP: The recitals really helped my business grow. Very early on I started planning concerts, in fact, the first one was based out of my home, it lasted 15 minutes, and afterwards I thought, “Wow, I want to do that again.” Fast forward 25 years, and now we offer students an incredible number of performance opportunities, totaling 75 different concerts and recitals each year!

TBWM: What has proven to be the biggest challenge with running your own business?

JP: My business has faced many challenges but I think we (my team and I) have risen to them quite nicely. So much emphasis in extracurricular activities today is placed on sports. With that said, the biggest challenge has been educating parents on the benefits of music.

Music teaches you to do something; it teaches you life skills that aren’t as easily learned in other activities. Confidence, self-esteem, and responsibility are just a few of those benefits. And your child doesn’t necessarily need to become a musician, whether they go on to be in law, medicine, or anything else for that matter, they are going to need to be able to confidently stand up and present in front of a group of people – a background in music lays that foundation.

TBWM: What is or has been the most rewarding part of your career?

JP: By far the most rewarding part has been getting the chance to see CA Music students improve year after year. Their joy at the recitals and the sheer beauty of the music they produce is why I do my job. I love getting to see a 12 year old play a sophisticated piece like Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata for example.

TBWM: When you’re not busy enriching the lives of hundreds of music students, what do you like to spend your time doing?

JP: That’s simple, I love talking with my husband – he is brilliant. We love to travel together and watch operas and concerts all over the world. In fact, sometimes we’ll see seven or eight shows in a matter of just five days!

TBWM: Business owners are notoriously pressed for time, what are some tips you have for effectively managing your time as well as finding a work/life balance?

JP: My technique is a bit straight forward. Every night I make a to-do list. Then each day I make sure that I get at least the top ten things on that list done, and the rest of the items get rolled over on to tomorrow’s list or simply crossed off if I realize they are not that important. That’s the biggest challenge, taking things off of this list. I can’t do everything, so I constantly need to remind myself that if an item on the list isn’t productive for my personal life or my business then it needs to be removed.

Over the years I’ve also learned how to be better at compartmentalizing. Work is work, and when I’m not working I force myself to put work away in a filing cabinet (so to speak). Outside of work I have my life with my family which also needs my attention. This separation was extremely hard at the beginning since I started the business out of my home, but I have learned a lot since then.

TBWM: What is the one vision/motive/goal you have held onto over your past 28 years running CA Music Studios?

JP: My vision has always been to improve the cultural awareness of the people in our area. I’m on a cultural mission to make people aware of other types of music that are out there. In our lessons, our instructors incorporate music pieces from all over the world.

TBWM: What have you found is the most valuable personality trait or skill to have as a successful business owner?

JP: Discipline – which is ironically a skill that I learned from my own background in music. Music is very organized, if requires practice, and it teaches you the ability to tolerate repetition. All of which are skills that translate into the workplace, no matter what you do.

TBWM: For ambition’s sake, let’s say the impossible is possible; where would you see your business headed in the future?

JP: I want to see CA Music Studios continue growing. We have had a steady 20% growth each year for many years, and I think we can keep that up. It might be fun to get into a culturally rich area like San Francisco – there are lots of exciting prospects!

For more information about California Music Studios and Jennifer Paterson, fill out a contact form here.

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